After more than 100 running medals, including 10 from marathons and dozens from half marathons, were stolen from a San Diego woman while she was moving this week, some of the medals were recovered Wednesday.
"A lot of them were with personal engravings, like, 'This one’s for you, dad,' and just some really special things that I think are irreplaceable," said Andrea Abel, of Pacific Beach.
Her medals vanished mysteriously when she was moving boxes in and out of her apartment on Tuesday.
The mementos are special because she runs to honor family members who passed away from cancer. Abel sees each medal as a symbol of grief, acceptance and hope.
She put up signs all over the community about the loss, and neighbors rallied to help her. By 4 p.m. Wednesday, Abel had recovered about 30 medals.
About 20 of the medals were found around the neck of a homeless man hours after they were reported missing. The man said he found the medals near a dumpster.
"Never expected something like this to happen," Abel said. "To stay connected to my dad and my grandpa, and to honor so many survivors, just has been kind of stolen from me."
Abel earned the medals while raising $160,000 for cancer research in honor of her late father. They don't hold much monetary value but she says they are priceless.
"I just ran 5K on my dad's 15th anniversay of his loss, so this one is great," Abel said while showing one off.
Representatives from the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, which holds races in 30 cities, have replaced 14 of her 16 medals, including a special run she finished in Chicago with her mother, who is also a cancer survivor.
"I run in memory of my dad and my grandpa. This here represents the first race I ever did with my mom. So we ran every single mile of that half together. She says I pulled her along but she ran," said Abel.
The medals were taken from a box outside Abel's apartment near Hornblend and Dawes streets Tuesday morning.
"I brought this bin of things down and realized I wasn't going to be able to get it in my car and I thought I should run up and get the lid,” she explained.
Abel said she ran upstairs for just a minute, leaving her keepsakes outside her car. When she came back they were gone.
The medals symbolize at least 20 relays, 40 half-marathons and about 10 marathons. Abel started running races in 2011 in honor of her father and grandfather who both died of cancer.
Her father died after a battle with cancer 15 years ago this month. Her grandfather died about five years ago from cancer, she said. Just last year, Abel's mother battled skin cancer.
“The medals are kind of this thing to represent this way to keep the connection to my dad alive in a way," Abel said.
Even if she doesn't get all of her medals back, Abel says this already feels like a victory. Either way, she would like to thank the community for their support.
Anyone with information about the missing medals is asked to call the San Diego Police Department at (619)531-2000.